Monday, April 30, 2012

Leibster Blogger Award...Who, Me?

When I began this journey of trying to channel my feelings and mixed-up emotions into something positive, I imagined that the path would take me to a place where I would write some posts, my friends and family would enjoy my musings, and perhaps I could affect some change in the world of mental health along the way.  In just a few short months, this path has lead me to a part of my life where I simply struggle to go a day without writing something.  The passion I have for writing, both personal pieces and fiction, has been reignited out of a tragic situation, and I will embrace it because I believe in finding a silver lining whenever possible.

In the back of my mind, however, I held tight to an inkling that my writing was merely okay...not much to people outside of my circle.  On a whim, I became a part of a writing challenge and met some people who I consider to be fabulous writers, and now one of them, Rebecca Barray, has nominated me as a "Writer Worth Watching" by nominating me for the Liebster Blogger Award.  To say that I was moved is an understatement.  I will forever be grateful to her for the confidence boost she has provided me, which will do wonders for the direction of my path moving forward.  Now, it is my turn:

The Liebster Blogger Rules are:
1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
2. Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.
3. Let your nominees know by leaving a comment on their sites.
4. Add the award image to your site.

My nominees are:
  • Anne Kimball's blog, Life on the Funny Farm, is a place I visit often for a good laugh and some heartfelt writing.  Unique family and a writer with a great voice.
  • Monique Liddle's blog, Bends in the Road, was born of her receiving two diagnoses that forced her to change the course of her life.  Inspiring and humbling.  The sky is the limit for Monique.
  • Veronica Roth's blog is one full of variety, and you cannot stop by her site without checking out Sophie Storm.  Not only do I love the writing and story, it is where I was inspired to revisit some of my own fiction.
  • Claudia Karabic Sargent's blog is another spot full of literary variety, including some touching stories I have connected to personally.  The format is gorgeous and creative.
  • Kasie Whitener's blog is one that I find to be one of the most moving blogs I've discovered, and her writing style is phenomenal.  Her post about the Pulitzer Prize winner made me laugh out loud!
Check them will not regret it!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Sister, My Best Friend

Peanut butter and jelly. Yeah, I think that is a pretty good metaphor for my the way my sister and I are together. Totally different, each with it's own unique qualities, and awesome together. This nightmare has affected so many people, and seemingly more and more everyday, but she and I are experiencing the same exact thing: Our mother has been replaced by a stranger.  The fact we are so different has allowed us to compliment one another's strengths, and to step in and take on more when the other hits a wall. When I allow myself to reflect on the last several months, I know that it would have been worse without her, if that even seems possible.

My sister on her wedding day.

We haven't always been this close. For quite some time, our differences drove us in opposite directions. It always seemed that we were in different places in our lives and had a hard time connecting. We always had a genuine love for one another, but it wasn't until recently that our relationship really developed into something I can't imagine being without. I have an admiration for her that I'm not sure words can capture. She is so strong. This girl has been through hell these last few months, and not just involving my mother. As if this crisis isn't bad enough, she's had her own struggles, and yet she comes out like a true fighter. Has she had her low points? Yes...she is human, and these have been the times when I have done the best I can to be the shoulder she needs. I don't have a fraction of the strength she does, but I use what I have to build her up. This girl also has a confidence that makes me so proud. When she wants something, she puts everything has into getting it, and God help the person who gets in her way. (Just ask her husband! Oh, our poor husbands...they'll get their own post soon!) She has marched into situations, asked the right questions, speaking their language and blown us all away. The youngest in the family has been our leader and rock throughout this. Yes, this would have been way worse without her, and I don't even want to think about what worse could look like.

Dad...My Hope: Robert DeNiro Plays Him in the Movie!

I love my dad. Watching him go through such pain has been the hardest part of this whole entire ordeal, likely the most difficult thing I've yet experienced. My most extreme emotional outbursts, the deepest points of my sadness, are all associated with the pain I've seen him experience. The cycle of life prepares us to eventually care for our parents and worry about them, much like they did for us as we grew up. I've expected and planned on this since I watched my dad care for his ill parents when I was young. He set the example. It's simply what you do when your parents need you. Now, he is hurting and I want to take care of him, but how? There are no treatments to drive him to, no medicines to pick up and make sure he takes. His heart is broken and his dreams are shattered. With every fiber of my being, I just want to fix it, but I can't. I wish I could shield him from the pain he feels, but a shield does not exist that is big enough for that task. I'm angry that this is what he gets stuck with at this point in his life, when he should be getting ready for life as a "Snow Bird". I'm upset that he is experiencing a sadness I can't comfort. Anger and sadness aren't going to do anyone any good, though. This is our new reality, and it will take a while for all of us to get into what feels like normalcy. Until then, here are some positives that I will help him focus on:

· We have an ironclad family surrounding us. The three of us have gotten more support and love from our family than most people get in a lifetime. Blood relatives, in-laws, chosen family; They have come from all over to build a us a safety net. Hours on the phone, time spent at hospitals, carefully worded emails of support, legal advice...I could go on and on. My one hope is that someday, each and every one of them will know how much they have helped us and how much we appreciate them. Maybe someday we can be their rocks. For now, we will simply cherish them.

· He has grandchildren who absolutely think the world of him, and they need him. He is such a good grandfather, and has a genuine interest in them and their lives. Kids have a way of lightening things up, no matter how dark a situation, and I will help him remember that. I'll make a more concerted effort to ensure that they connect more often. They have lives of accomplishments and moments of joy ahead of them, and he has those moments to look forward to as their grandfather.

His life will never be the same, and it will never be the way he dreamed it would be at this point in his life. There is a lot of muck to wade through before his new life really takes root, but it will happen. He will be happy again one day. As his daughter, I will never stop striving for that. It's the only thing I can do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Country Store

I will gratefully say it again:  I had a great childhood; Picture book quality, to be honest.  I have so many fond memories of growing up in my little town, and my recent trip home brought me back to a place that, for me, could be a stand-alone symbol of those good times. It represents an almost-weekly tradition that my dad and I shared, and something I've wanted to capture in words for quite some time.

It was typically a Sunday afternoon, and always in the spring or summer.  We'd grab our bikes from the garage, his red and mine purple, and we'd take off. If I close my eyes and put myself back there, I can still feel the sun shining on my face and wind blowing my hair all over the place.  Along the way we'd chat about school or friends, and we'd pass by "The Pits", which I think was an intended development at one point, but ended up being the high school keg party spot.  It was only two or three miles away, and we'd be at The Old Country Store before long. 
Once there, we'd lean our bikes up along the railroad fence that ran down the side of the parking lot and head inside, passing the big Native American statue that stood alongside the entrance.  Walking into that store felt like stepping back in time.  As soon as you crossed the doorway, the smell of pickles was the first thing to hit you.  They have these two huge, wooden barrels full of pickles.  I don't know of anywhere else you can even find something like that!  The inside was constructed entirely of wood, wrought iron, and glass; A real old-fashioned General Store.  Our trips always had a predictability that, today, brings me such comfort.  We'd each grab a soda, in the authentic glass bottles, and a bag of fresh-roasted peanuts so we could go sit on the brick stairs and share a snack.  Sometimes we talked, sometimes we just sat and watched people come and go.  Each and every time is a cherished moment in my life that I wish I could recreate when we are having a bad day.  What I would give to just go back for a carefree bike ride, some peanuts,  and a soda.  It seemed so simple back then.


I think I'm gaining some clarity for my blog direction.  Sign up for email alerts on the left, follow me on Twitter, and connect with me on won't want to miss this!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Will Rise Above This

This is a post I pictured in my mind as entirely different than it will actually play out.  I imagined my final post about my mother as a post that would describe how amazing it felt to see my mother return to her old self again.  I envisioned a triumphant post about how we had finally found what was needed, affected some systemic changes, and that it worked.  I wanted to be sharing with you all how it felt to talk with her again, like we used to, and the joy my heart felt to see her reunite with her grandchildren.  It was going to be a happy ending to my family's misery. 

Scratch that. I can't even be in control of how I express my feelings about the worst experience of my life.  Other people can go on and on, hurling false accusations of abuse, but I can't write about how I am making my way through the hardest part of my life.  I did not want to bend under the pressure of a threat, but there's too much at stake for me.  Another defeat...if I choose to look at it that way, and I don't.  I will rise above this loss, like I have risen above every loss since November.

In the coming days, I will be making major changes to this blog.  It'll look different, and it'll be called by a different name, but I will still return to it, like an old friend, and I hope you will as well.  I will continue write about my life, and how I handle trying times, and those of you who have been along for the whole ride will have the inside scoop, so to speak.  You'll know what's behind those posts, like cherished friends with history. 

I am deciding to view this as an opportunity to change things up, and give my readers some variety.  I am not exactly sure what that variety will include, but I promise you that it'll be worth stopping by to read.  You have all provided me with so much support and encouragement.  It's the least I can do for you.

Stay tuned...this will be good. 

(Oh, and that memoir?  Still gonna happen.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Grew up in a Small Town

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from, I cannot forget the people who love me.
- John Mellencamp

The circumstances of my life of late have landed me in a place where I am often seeking out peace and comfort.  Oftentimes, I find them nearby; A favorite T.V. show with my husband on the couch, a manicure with my daughter, a trip to our favorite ice cream shop with my little guy.  Then there are the calls and emails with loved ones, who forever make time to listen and offer encouragement, and I am truly blessed to work in a place where I am surrounded by happy, smiling faces all day long.  This week, with a little extra time on my hands, I sought out comfort in a different way, totally on a whim, and I am so happy I followed my instincts.  I went home to the town I grew up in, and it made my heart smile.

I was raised in a small town, and there were small town spots that stand out in my mind as meaningful and memorable when I think back to my youth.  With my patient kids in tow and camera in hand, we hit a bunch of those spots.  The first school I attended when we moved in, my middle and high schools.  We stopped at the little ice cream place I would walk to on half-days, and the little blue store I would walk to with my best friend when we were at her house.  There were two places, both near and dear to my heart, that deserve mention.  I'm just going to talk about one today, and save the other.  They each deserve their own special day.

Their House

I had the best friend in the world growing up, and though we live thousands of miles away and are in sparse contact now, I cherish that friendship as if it were gold.  Driving through town, I was not even sure I would remember how to get to her parents' house, but nostalgia brought me there.  I pulled up in front, not 100% they still lived there. I sat for a bit, trying to muster up the courage to take a chance and knock.  Then, from around the corner came a man walking a big, beautiful golden retriever.  It was my friend's father, and I was frozen for a moment.  He looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen him.  He recognized me right away, enveloped me in a familiar, fatherly hug, and invited us in to visit with them.  Seeing her mother was even more emotional for me, and I had to muster up self control to keep from crying.  I practically grew up in this house;  These were like second parents to me, and it felt so warm and welcoming to be in that living room again, chatting as if it had not been over 13 years since I had last been there.  I hope the card I sent conveys how much it meant to see them.  I'm a planner, and not at all one to just pop-in, but I am grateful I did, and I am sure I will do so again. 

Things may be a messy right now, but in the words of Katy Perry:

This is a part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me.